The Grammar: We Be Following Rules

  • Charles DeBose


The grammar of African American language, is approached in this chapter in a manner that is commonly reserved for recognized languages. Since one of the language planning issues identified in the introduction, is the question of how its grammar should be described, I take the occasion in the following pages to offer a succinct overview of what an autonomous grammar of AA would look like, as contrasted to the list of features commonly used by Black English scholars. The approach that I follow could alternatively be referred to as a paradigmatic grammar, because of the manner in which sets of words or sounds or other elements of the language that alternate with one another in grammatical sequences are displayed in a manner that makes their systematicity clear and explicit.

Many people continue to be influenced by the stigmatized status of African American language, and the erroneous belief that persons speaking it are attempting, but failing, to speak Standard English. In such a climate, the point that AA is systematic and rule-governed can hardly be overstated. A paradigmatic approach tends to make a more striking impression on audiences of the systematic and rule-governed nature of the variety being described, especially if it is a stigmatized variety such as African American.


Noun Phrase Past Participle Verbal Predicate Possessive Pronoun Adjective Phrase 
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Copyright information

© Charles E. DeBose 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles DeBose
    • 1
  1. 1.California State UniversityUSA

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